Editorial

Rules and modern society

Thursday, September 26, 2019

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From hard experience and emotional intelligence, societies and organisations have learnt that without workable rules and standards to guide relationships, there is only chaos, disorder, lawlessness, and mayhem, even where great freedom exists.

The rights of one person cannot supersede the rights of the overall population. That is a fundamental element of all constitutions and laws flowing from them.

Because there is no perfect rule, law or constitution, human beings constantly seek to change, amend or repeal them, replacing them with something that is acceptable to the majority at the moment in time.

And since there is never likely ever to be full agreement on all rules, laws, standards, and constitutions, proper societies have processes for seeking changes.

The matter of the way in which students present to school with varying hairstyles has been an age-old bone of contention.

The Supreme Court of Jamaica is now hearing arguments in a case relating to children being allowed to wear dreadlocks to schools, whether or not the hairstyle is for religious reasons.

The rule practised in many schools (below tertiary level) is that children may wear dreadlocks if they come from a family that subscribes to Rastafarianism. There are few schools that challenge this convention.

Truly, Jamaica has come a far way in terms of social acceptance of dreadlocks, from the time when Rastas were seen by some in high places as “nasty head bwoys and gyals”, often accused of carrying insects like lice in their hair, and who cops were allowed to trim forcibly.

Now dreadlocks is an international hairstyle popularised by reggae superstar Bob Marley, and Rastafarians generally. It has transcended religious beliefs and is now a favourite of entertainers, men and women, across the globe.

Clearly, the institutions against dreadlocks in Jamaican schools have not kept pace with its social and cultural acceptance. It is for that matter that we find the Supreme Court trial of the case quite interesting.

The panel of judges — Sonia Bertram-Linton, Evan Brown and Nicole Simmons — heard the case brought by Mr Dale Virgo, father of a five-year-old girl who was given an ultimatum to cut her dreadlocks before being enrolled in a St Catherine public institution last year.

Even though the court ruled that the father did not meet the constitutional requirements to make a constitutional claim in the matter, we applaud Mr Virgo for using the court to seek his redress.

Too often parents seek to impose their will upon schools whenever they disagree with a particular rule. No good can come of that. Without rules these institutions would crumble and be useless to anyone. Rules have to be set, starting from the home to the school, the community and the society, to maintain discipline, and good order.

While attempts can be made to secure changes at the organisational level, it should not be done at the expense of the entity. We've seen too much of that, and organisations have been known to splinter or die in the process of change.

Regrettably, the state of things in the Jamaican justice system does not encourage the use of the courts to solve local problems. It simply takes too long and is too costly.

Perhaps the time has come when we should look at attaching propositions to local government or general elections, as we commonly see in United States elections. That way many desired changes could be accommodated.


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